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Mountain Women | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Mountain Women

woman_childphoto © 2010 KatieK* | more info (via: Wylio)
Thanks to the fighting Scot-Irish Mountain Women in my family tree, who deserve a nod on the 4th of July.

Scratching a living in the foothills of Kentucky, and later, southern Illinois, their stories leap through generations.

Their battles were fought on the homefront.

What a legacy they give to my children and me…and great stories to share:

  • When her husband came home drunk and passed out in bed one too many times, she left him. But first, she sewed him from head to toe up in the bedsheets. In the mid-1800’s.
  • After her favorite mule was stolen in the 1800’s, she heard someone had him 100 miles from home. So she rode alone on horseback to fetch him home. He had been sold to a farmer. When she called the mule and he came to her, the farmer realized the mule did belong to her. She declined, saying she had to get him back home or no one would believe she found him.
  • During the Civil War, a mother with a house full of kids to feed went postal on a military regiment that tried to take her last cows to feed the army. She told them she had children to feed and fought so hard they took the cows, but paid her. She was the only one in the area who got reimbursed for livestock.
  • My grandmother, who lived in a log cabin in the woods, walked 3 miles to the highway while in labor to get to her sister’s house to deliver a baby. Three days later, she walked 3 miles back home, in 3 inches of snow, with my grandfather carrying my newly born mother, with her toddler son trailing beside her. The sisters had gotten into an argument after childbirth, and Grandma was so mad she walked back home.
  • Equally expert with a butcher knife or shotgun, Grandma saved the rattle when she shot a snake out of the tree in her yard. I kept the rattle until it burned when my house burned 10 years ago. Once, in her 80’s, an intruder ventured on her porch. Alone at the time, Grandma turned on the porch light, leaned her shotgun across her walker and yelled, “Come one step closer and I’ll blow your balls off.” The intruder fled, never to return.
  • Grandma’s oldest sister, who was a formidable 5 feet tall when she began as a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse, teaching 60 kids, including her 4 younger siblings. At her funeral, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday, an 80-year-old student who became a pastor preached the sermon. He told us, “Miss Ida ruled the school. Every farm boy was afraid of her. Once, she told me, ‘If I have to take a hoe and knock a hole in your head, I will if that’s what it takes for you to learn your math tables.’ I learned them. And when I got too sick to go to school, Miss Ida drove her horse and buggy to my house every day after school to give me my lessons. For a month.”
  • Grandma’s other sister, Aunt Lena, who managed a peach orchard in southern Illinois (with the largest barn of its time) after the untimely death of her husband, was still a piker in her 90’s. When a doctor tried to talk to her daughter and ignore her, Aunt Lena interrupted him, saying, “You talk to me. I pay my own bills, and I write your check.” (Her orchard is now Hedman Vineyards, with a Swedish bed and breakfast, complete with fantastic meals at the Peach Barn Cafe. The farmhouse by the Peach Barn is where my mother was born. The vineyard is beautiful, and the cafe is fantastic.)

Those strong women were the wives and mothers of equally pioneers and mountainfolk. I thank them all for fighting for an American dream of a better home for our families. 

Their legacy gave me the strength and chutzpah to overcome my own obstacles to build a better world for my family.

Happy Independence Day!


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